Replanting of oil palm on Felda land may be hit, says Rafizi

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KUALA LUMPUR: Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli today expressed concern over the state of finances of the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), which he said could impair its ability to fulfil its responsibilities to more than 100,000 settlers.

Rafizi, who is PKR vice-president, said the majority of Felda settlers depended on the federal agency for aid to replant oil palm on their 4ha of land.

He explained that oil palm needed to be replanted upon reaching a certain maturity and the replanting process was an expensive one that the settlers relied on Felda to do.

“Felda has not opened a new settlement since 1990. The last settlers would have gone in during the late 1980s and the oil palm trees they have planted would have now matured.

“Right now, the biggest task for Felda and settlers revolves around the management of the 4ha of land.

“Any disruption to the replanting process would have a huge impact on the settlers because oil palm is their main source of income,” he said during a press conference at Invoke Malaysia headquarters.

Citing figures from Felda’s 2014 annual report, Rafizi said the gross expenditure for oil palm replanting was RM2.5 billion, compared with Felda’s recorded income of RM87.1 million for the same year.

“My point is, you are already struggling to do the one thing that is the reason for your existence, which is to carry out replanting for the settlers.

“And now you want to buy an Indonesian plantation at three times the price the shares are worth.

“It should be noted that Indonesian plantations are famous for their complex operating procedures.”

Yesterday, Rafizi alleged that Felda paid a premium of 290% (RM2.26 billion) for a 37% stake in PT Eagle High Plantations Tbk (EHP).

Rafizi had also questioned why Felda had yet to present its financial statement for Dec 31, 2015 to the MPs, adding that Felda was financially in dire straits after showing a net loss of RM2.312 billion in 2013 and RM1.023 billion in 2014.

Rafizi cautioned that any spending now would only worsen Felda’s financial position.

“My fear is that Felda is in too bad a condition now to be able to guarantee the livelihoods of the settlers for the next 20 years.”